Monday, January 31, 2011

Training week 1/24-1/30 - Should ultrarunning be a part of the X Games and Olympic Games?

Another solid base-building week is in the books. I hit my goal of 65 miles for the week of 1/24-1/30 and enjoyed a fairly pain-free week with my left foot.

AM: 41:20/5.0 miles on the treadmill followed by 15 minutes on the stationary cycle. I decided to take it easy on Monday, not wanting to push my foot too hard.

AM: 1:10:17/9.0 miles down Canterberry Parkway, then east on East Parker Road, and then back home via Tomahawk and Buffaloberry. What a beautiful morning except for the fact that there was a nasty, stiff breeze coming in from the south. 2,000 total feet of elevation change.

AM: Due to an early morning meeting, I didn't have much time to run, and so I hopped on my treadmill for 40:14/5.4 miles.

AM: 1:08:55/9.0 miles down Buffaloberry Road to what I call the "Tomahawk loop," which is on hilly dirt roads maxing out at 6,350 feet. This was a pretty solid run as my legs were turning over nicely. 1,800 feet of total elevation change.

AM: 1:10:49/9.0 miles back out on the Tomahawk loop and again feeling good. 1,800 feet of elevation change.

AM: 1:46:42/13.6 miles down Buffaloberry, up Tomahawk and around a dirt road loop north of Tomahawk/East Parker. Kind of faded after 8 miles. 3,000 feet of elevation change.
PM: A nice yoga session with Noah :).

AM: 1:51:33/14.0 miles. An usually cloudy day in the Front Range, but with temperatures in the low to mid 30s, making for decent running weather. I ventured to the trails behind our house and ran 9.5 laps of a 1.25-mile hilly single-track and jeep road loop. As they say, you can't improve it if you can't measure it. And so I timed my loops to assess my fitness. All in all, not too bad. My times got a little slower after three loops but not a lot slower. I stayed between 9:53-10:20 per lap. However, after my last full loop I did a half loop, dumping out on Canterberry Parkway and running a few miles home on legs that were toast. The run involved 4,000 feet of combined elevation change--2,100 up and 1,950 down, all between 6,100-6,300 feet. I like this loop a lot--it has some short, steep drops along with a few longer ascents and descents. In a few places the trail is also a little weathered. This will be a great day-to-day maintenance course for my trail skills.

So, all in all, not a bad base-building week, except for the fact that it was devoid of quality.

This week is very busy at work, and so I'm going to shoot for 65-70 miles and will head to the treadmill on Wednesday morning for an interval session consisting of mile repeats at sub-6:00 pace. My plan was to run intervals at the track but the conditions will likely be very nasty. It will be very interesting to see how my foot handles the fast running. If I feel any pain or discomfort, I'll stop immediately.

My overall training plan for the months ahead:

February: Average 70-75 miles/week with two quality sessions per week (intervals and tempo run). Also incorporate yoga and core strengthening.

March: Average 80 miles/week with two quality sessions per week (intervals and tempo run with some hard hill repeats mixed in). Also incorporate yoga and core strengthening.

April: Average 85-90 miles/week with two quality sessions per week (intervals and fast hill repeats). Also incorporate yoga and core strengthening. Possible Eisenhower Marathon.

May: Jemez Mountain 50-Mile Race in Los Alamos, NM. Incredibly tough course. One-week taper, race and ample recovery. Lots of yoga, core and cross-training.
June: 90-110 miles/week with a strong emphasis on Leadville 100-specific mountain running and fast hill repeats. Yoga and core. Possible Mount Evans Ascent.
July: 80-100 miles/week with a strong emphasis on Leadville 100-specific mountain running and fast hill repeats. Yoga and core. Leadville Trail Marathon in early July. Whether I race the LT Marathon or use it as a training run depends on my conditioning by then. If I'm in excellent shape, I will race it and then recover for a week. If my conditioning is so-so, I'll use the marathon as a trainer. Later in July: Barr Trail Mountain Race.
August: The Big One: Leadville Trail 100-Mile Run.

That's as far as I can see right now. But really the key goal is to stay healthy and injury-free!


There's been a lot of talk lately about the future of ultrarunning and how to take the sport to the next level. Not long ago I expressed my feelings on the role of money in the sport. You can read my post here. At the risk of contradicting myself, here's an idea that I'd like to throw out there for feedback. The Olympic Games should implement a 100-kilometer road race. At the same time, the Summer X Games could start a 50- or 100-mile trail race. I honestly think the average viewer would be freaked out by the site of guys and gals running 62 miles on the road, or covering 50 or 100 miles on mountain trails. This would allow two distinct forms of ultrarunning (the road ultra and the trail ultra) to gain major exposure, bringing the sport to a much wider audience. Of course, with more exposure you'd also have more money involved--maybe not a good thing.

A big part of me wonders if ultrarunning isn't better off keeping a low profile.


Sometimes greatness is glaring--as with the legendary Shaun White at this year's Winter X Games in Aspen. Once again he came through, dominating the competition.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Starting to feel strong(er)

I'm starting to feel strong...or maybe just stronger. This morning on my 9-miler in the Parker hills I felt good on the ascents and my stride felt fluid. Going "fast" is still a bit of a challenge; I feel "it" in my left foot when I amp up the pace. Nothing terrible. I don't even know what "it" is, but I think "it" is just the lingering plantar fasciitis, which I really need to keep at bay!

I've been feeling more and more motivated lately, even though running in the cold and dark and against a nasty breeze can sometimes really suck. Honestly, I kind of have a chip on my shoulder--a good thing. I had a crappy year in 2010, though I did finish the Leadville 100 in under 25 hours. In 2011, I really want to see my performance improve and I want to be a factor in races like I was when we lived out East. No one here knows me. So the way I see it, there's no pressure.

Regarding the chip on my shoulder, I don't know what to think. Am I a good ultrarunner...or just a wannabe? Is it even worthwhile for me to feel really motivated and pissed off and want to beat some guys out here? I don't know. Maybe out West I'm just a middle-of-the-packer. We'll see. But there's something that has me getting up every morning at 4:40 motivated and ready to get in a great run.

Only time will tell if I can do something as a runner out West...or if I'm just a schlub who should be content finishing in the middle of the pack. But for now I think I'll run with motivation, a chip on my shoulder and wanting to kick some butt. Maybe the only butt I'll kick is my own.

Talk is cheap.

Monday, January 24, 2011

More yoga, dirt roads, trails, and cross-training--plus other goals for 2011

Knock on wood, but it appears I'm returning to health (and form). I still have a way to go in regaining my fitness, but at least now I'm running and enjoying every step of my outdoor adventures. For the week, I completed 59.8 miles. Ordinarily 59.8 miles would be a taper or recovery week, but at this stage in the game it's indicative of real progress.

When we moved into our new house around Thanksgiving, I was in the throes of my plantar fasciitis and unable to really get out and explore new routes. But now that I'm getting healthy, I've been able to explore the area a bit and have found two really nice places to get in the miles--both at over 6,000 feet of elevation. The first is a dirt road loop that is three miles from our house and accessible via a country road with a nice dirt shoulder. The high point for this loop is 6,350 feet. The second is a fairly hilly network of single track trails and jeep roads behind our house. I'm only beginning to familiarize myself with the trail network behind our house. The trails will be great for day-in-and-day out runs on a soft surface and will allow me to hone my trail skills Monday-Friday, when I'm unable to get to more adventurous settings.

Another highlight of the week was my first-ever yoga session on Sunday afternoon. Here's the DVD I used (will look for it in Blue-ray). A few months ago I read a short interview with 2010 Ironman Kona champion Chris McCormack, who, like me, is 37 years-old. McCormack said yoga is critical for older athletes and has been great for his health and fitness. So, on Sunday afternoon, when I was still a little tight from a 13-miler (and 14-miler the previous day), I decided to dust off my yoga DVD and put it to good use. I was able to get some great stretching in the hamstrings and hips--two problem areas for me--while also breathing deeply and enjoying some deep reflection and relaxation. I felt rejuvenated, looser and more relaxed afterward, and this morning I got out of bed feeling great. Tight muscles are a no-no for runners, and so I am now a yoga believer.

My goals this week are to surpass 65 miles and, most importantly, stay healthy. If all goes well, I'll start speedwork at the track (and, when necessary, on the treadmill) the following week, doing some 400s, 800s, 1600s and, eventually, 3200s. Tempo runs and hill sprints will soon follow. In mid-March I'll make a decision about the Eisenhower Marathon. I will likely not make the drive to Abilene, Kansas unless I believe I have a great shot at a new marathon PR.

Looking back on 2010, it's clear to me that I ran too much and too often on pavement (there's a lot of pavement here in Parker, but if you really explore you'll find some dirt roads and trails) and didn't stretch or cross-train enough. So, this year I really want to continue with yoga once or twice a week, while spending some time on the cycle and definitely hitting the trails and dirt roads as much as possible. I think finding the time to stick with yoga and cross-training will be difficult, but it's something I have to do if I want to stay healthy and have a great year.

Another big goal for 2011 is to get to know more Colorado runners. I was pretty entrenched in the Cleveland/Northeast Ohio running scene (it's a hotbed of ultrarunning) and have yet to find a circle here in Colorado. Forming friendships is hard, especially when you have so many priorities and commitments outside of running, but I've always found that running has a way of bringing people together. So here's to new friendships in 2011.


I've shared the video below many times and want to do so again. It's important that newcomers to ultrarunning understand the history and essence of the sport and those who made and make it great. At the top of the list of iconic ultrarunners who, like Babe Ruth in baseball, defy logic, is Yiannis Kouros. Born in 1956 in Greece, Yiannis is quite simply the greater ultrarunner of all time. He owns basically every significant world record, including 188+ miles in 24 hours plus the most-ever Spartathlon wins. The American record for 24 hours is 165 miles set in 2010 by the legendary Scott Jurek. Anyway, I say all of this because we now have some self-promoters in the sport (including the author of a certain best-selling book) who are so caught up in advancing their own brands that newcomers might not realize that ultrarunning enjoys deep roots. No, the aforementioned author wasn't the first to run a long, long way; many came before him, including the all-time great, Mr. Kouros.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Running Again...But Out of Shape

I'm working on my best week of training in a few months. Back in November I was up to 70 miles a week but the health of my foot spiraled downward, ultimately leading to a crappy December that started with my efforts to try to run through my injury and led to a near-three week shutdown from running that carried me through a big hunk of January. I'm now back to running, relying on my new custom-made Marathotics, which get high marks! The good news is that I'm running! The bad news is that I'm out of shape, *relatively* speaking. In this case, the good news far overshadows the bad news.

As I was saying to Anne last night, this is the first time in a little over seven years that I've been out of shape relative to the steady level of fitness I've been able to maintain. My turnover is quite poor and my feet are heavy. My cardiovascular capacity is no where near what it was a few months ago, and living at 6,100 feet just exacerbates the problem. I know all of this will clear up soon as my conditioning improves. Honestly, it's been a very interesting experience, and I'm not really worried or stressed because I know I'll soon start feeling better and better until finally I'm on track for peak fitness. I think in three weeks things will be different.


I've been thumbing through Tim Noakes' classic "Lore of Running." It's a substantial book intended for the very serious runner. Last night I read about the history of running and was especially enthralled by the Greek messengers. I know it must have been hard running hundreds of miles to deliver messages, but I can't help but feel fascinated by and drawn to the thought of traversing hundreds of miles on remote countryside and over mountains with a single mission...but with no aid stations, no Coolmax fabrics, no handheld water bottle and certainly no PowerBars or Gatorade. It's just you and the mission. I think today's ultrarunners are the worthy descendents of the great messengers and pedestrians. Did you know that Madison Square Garden once hosted multi-day events?


Lately I've been thinking a lot about folks who made better health and weight-loss their new year's resolution. Many of us make resolutions and it's hard sticking with them. Based on some observations I've made at my gym, which fortunately I'm using less and less now that I'm back outdoors running, I think a lot of people don't really know where to begin and feel paralyzed by doubts and embarrassment. This is unfortunate but understandable. So what to do if you're the new year's resolutioner who wants to lose weight but are now feeling discouraged and maybe not quite as motivated when you're driving to the gym? Or maybe you've given up altogether. I think the answer to life-long health is to find an activity that you enjoy and stick with it. It needs to be a sustainable pursuit. This may be golf, pick-up basketball, tennis, yoga, cycling, kayaking, walking, hiking or maybe even running.

I am one of the lucky ones--I can't remember the last time I really exercised, because to me running goes way beyond exercise and is truly a love.

Find your love. Today.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My New Marathotics

Armed with my new Marathotics, on Sunday morning I completed my first run outside and my first run of double-digit mileage since early December. My little adventure in the Parker hills went exceedingly well and my foot felt great thanks to my new custom orthotics. As I see it, these orthotics aren't a permanent thing; they're temporary measures to help my foot heal while I run the way I want to run. My hope is to be out of them in a year. Until then, I'm just grateful to have a device that helps me run outside and do what I want to do.

Sunday's 11-miler in the Parker hills showed me that my legs have definitely lost some conditioning. Fortunately, I'm still in great shape as far as cardiovascular capacity. I know that my legs will return to form in time. I am very excited about hitting the trails in Manitou Springs, Boulder and other areas in the coming months. The Incline, Green Mountain and Deer Creek Canyon are calling me.

My goals are to increase my mileage by 10 percent every week and log 70-80 miles per week by late February without any pain or discomfort in my foot. I'd love to start intervals at the track. I'm trying not to think too "big" and instead just focus on returning to good health in time for the Jemez Mountain 50-Mile Race in May. Jemez is going to be very tough and I'll need to be ready.

I feel like 2011 will be a good year for me as far as running. Aside from a strong finish at the Leadville 100 in August, I have to say a new marathon PR is of utmost importance to me. But mostly I just want to run injury-free and enjoy the road and trails again. This past weekend, because I'm recovering from an injury, I missed the first annual Ponderous Posterior Pikes Peak Fat Ass 50K in Manitou Springs.

With good health, may 2011 be full of memorable races, training runs and good fellowship.


Rest in peace, Gerry Rafferty. "Baker Street" is an all-time classic.

"Right Down the Line" is just as classic. Due to addiction, depression and other factors, it's fair to say Rafferty's potential was never realized. So sad.

Thanks for the great tunes, Gerry.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jemez Mountain 50-Mile

Early this week I got the burning desire to formalize my 2011 racing schedule so I can actually start focusing on what's next. Plus, we now have a much better idea of Anne's weekend on-call schedule, allowing me to get the racing schedule in order. But, most important of all, I'm seeing good improvement in my foot and so it's time to think 2011!

Except for this week, I've been really satisfied with how my training is starting to ramp us. This week has been off-the-charts busy and we have a sick little boy, which means training has been hard to do. I'm now at about 2/3 running and 1/3 cycling and am planning my first outside run this weekend--my first outside run in a long time. It'll likely be a short run on some very tame trails in my neighborhood.

So as I've thought and thought about my spring races, two events have surfaced. The first is the Eisenhower Marathon on April 9 in Abilene, Kansas, home of Ike himself. That's only three months away. I'd love to PR in the marathon and have decided that in early March I'll make a decision about Eisenhower. By then my mileage will need to be around 70-80/week with very solid speedwork and tempo runs--a lot to ask for when I've been majorly injured for six months now. So Eisenhower is tentative and probably slightly doubtful.

I've also registered for the Jemez Mountain 50-Mile Race outside of Los Alamos, New Mexico. A lot of people say Jemez (pronounded HE-Mez) is the toughest 50-mile race in the U.S. Here's how the organizers describe the course:
The JMTR races take place in the scenic Jemez mountains in Northern New Mexico. The course is on technical trails with a substantial amount of elevation change. The 50k and 50 mile events include extremely steep climbs and descents on very technical terrain. On the course, runners will experience high altitude (over 10,000 feet above sea level), scree fields, stream crossings, fallen trees, and other obstacles. The course has numerous aid stations but there are some long stretches (greater than 5 miles) between aid stations. Please review the course description page for more details. Runners are encouraged to strongly consider their comfort level on this type of terrain before registering.
In his race report, Nick Clark, the winner of last year's Jemez 50-Mile, said "Jemez is easily the toughest 50-mile race I have ever run, and the rate of attrition among runners was, not surprisingly, quite high." I read Lucho's horrifying report not long after the 2010 Jemez race and then, upon reading his report again after registering, couldn't help but swallow hard. Lucho finished sixth at the 2010 Leadville 100. Yeah, Jemez is a monster! I'm going to have to be in good shape, but I really want to peak not for Jemez but rather for the Leadville 100. I really believe you can truly peak only twice--and maybe three times--each year. Just give me a solid showing at Jemez and I'll be happy. Also, I think Jemez will provide a nice idea of how difficult the Hard Rock 100 will be when that day comes for me.

The training plan for Jemez is to get up to 70-80 miles per week with lots of hills and mountain running, along with quality at the track. I'll be going to Boulder when I can to take on Green Mountain and those beautiful snowy trails. The key is to do all of this gradually, not over-stressing my foot. My orthotic will hopefully provide all the support I need.

Who wouldn't want to be a part of this race?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Plantar Fasciitis Improvement (At Last)

Although I've been quite active with my blogging of late, I haven't really said anything about my plantar fasciitis. A few weeks before 2010 came to an end, I decided to shut down from running for the rest of the year and go into silence because, quite honestly, writing and talking about my foot injury was causing me a great deal of stress. Alas, despite my every effort, I just didn't feel I was getting anywhere.

Things have changed. A little.

I'm continuing with my physical therapy and, while my foot still isn't "right" and I still feel pain especially at the end of the day, Rob (my physical therapist and an Ironman triathlete) and I both agree that healing is under way. There's not any "knotty" tissue in the foot--a very good sign--and my foot is looser, but there's still dull pain in my heel. My arch is fine.

Amid all the physical therapy, I decided to order some orthotics (through my foot specialist, Dr. Ng) specially designed for long-distance runners. They are, quite appropriately, called the Marathotic. My orthotics, for which I'm having to shell out a whopping $375, will arrive any day now. I'll need to break them in over a period of weeks, spending more and more time in them everyday until my feet finally accept and adjust to the added support. Am I happy about having orthotics? No!

Why no? Because, as both my physical therapist and foot doctor have noticed, I have very neutral feet. In other words, my feet don't have any mechanical problems and are actually "made" to run long distances. This bout of plantar fasciitis, then, isn't really from overuse or a mechanical problem--it is from acute damage to the foot. An injury. I have my theories, and they start and end with multiple treadmill runs at 13% at hard pace to train for the Leadville 100. These were second runs of the day, and so when I stepped on the treadmill and ratcheted up the incline I was already tired and in recovery mode from double-digit miles run earlier in the day. Do lots of 13% hard runs at 6,000+ feet and at the end of a 100+ mile week and problems may ensue. My foot is Exhibit A.

So the orthotics are, in my view, temporary. I'll wear them for as long as I need and then transition out of them. They're on the way and, happily, I've restarted my running but very conservatively. I started gradually, running for just 10 minutes on day one. I've increased my time conservatively and am now at 40 minutes on the treadmill. I'm running slow (about 7:45-8:00 pace) and with zero incline, while focusing on my form. Midfoot strike, arms swinging efficiently, leaning forward ever so slightly--this is form-sharpening time. My foot needs it.

I'm also hammering away on the cycle. I hated the cycle at first but love it now. I go hard....and then harder. My legs have changed from the cycling, getting a lot more muscular. Time will tell if that's a a good or bad thing as far as running.

Right now, the goal week in and week out is to work out for 9+ hours and start adding onto that once I have a solid base back in place. Nine hours is about how long it would take me to run 70 miles a week--which is what I usually run this time of year. I'll continue to increase time on my feet running while decreasing cycling time, but I'm going to stick with the cycle for good because I believe it's very beneficial. I also want to finally act on my curiosity about yoga. A runner my age (37) has got to change his thinking because pounding out big mileage without cross-training and without enough recovery is only for the young. I read an interview with 37-year-old Chris McCormack, two-time winner of the Ironman Triathlon in Kona (including the 2010 race), in which he recommends yoga for older athletes. He says it's critical.

When my orthotics arrive, I'll finally have the support my foot needs to completely heal. My goal is to be knocking off the mileage and totally in Leadville Marathon/Leadville 100 training mode by April 1. Cross-training will continue to be part of the mix, but so will weeks of 90+ miles of running. Recovery, too. So important.

My lesson from all of this: It's important to get control of injuries early. If only I'd seen a doctor back in July or August, I'd probably be fine by now. Secondly, cross-training and recovery have to be a part of my training.


During these difficult several months in which I've battled injury, "Back in the High Life Again" by Steve Winwood has been inspiring. A semi-cheesy video...yes. But a classic tune no less. Steve Winwood gets too little respect.

Monday, January 3, 2011

10 Tips for the Aspiring Runner

Especially around this time of year, I often get asked for advice from people who want to start running and need some direction. Few things excite me more than sharing my love of running and trying to bring as many folks "under the tent" as possible. The running community is very tight-knit and supportive. I could go to any race in America and instantly find a common bond with those around me. In a special kind of way, all runners are friends. We look out for each other.

Unfortunately, so many people view running as a form of punishment. When I played high school football, punishment was 100-yard intervals and hill repeats. But to me, running was never punishment--I loved it! In reality, running is as natural as walking, and it's always a great thing when someone feels the urge to start running. I say go for it!

In my last post, I shared some insights on what worked for me in losing and keeping off more than 50 pounds. Here, I'd like to share 10 tips for the aspiring runner. But before I share my 10 tips, I do urge anyone seeking to take up a new exercise regiment to first see their doctor.

Now for the 10 tips!

1) Because it's so very important to have a pair of running shoes that fit your feet and provide the support and/or cushioning you need, buy a new pair of treads from a specialty running store. It's always ideal to start off in new shoes. There are basically three types of running shoes:
  • Stability: Provides an extra level of stability for your feet.
  • Neutral cushion: Usually for the runner who has a neutral foot and needs less support.
  • Motion control: For the runner who severely over-pronates (foot goes inward)
At a specialty running store, you'll benefit from a sales person--likely a runner--who understands your feet and will recommend the type of shoe appropriate for you. You will not find this level of service or expertise at the big-box retailers. If cost is an issue, first find out what kind of shoe you need and then look for similar close-outs at National Running Center, Road Runner Sports, etc. FYI, running shoes will last about 400 miles. Keep track of your mileage so you know when to replace them. And, of course, always replace your shoes if you start experiencing foot, ankle, knee, hip or back pain.

A quick word on the burgeoning barefoot running movement. Barefoot running and Vibram Fivefingers have their place in some programs and for some runners. But forget about minimalism for now and get some shoes that work for you and go for it.

2) Just as important as running shoes, get some socks specifically made for running. Avoid socks that are cotton and instead shoot for socks made from Coolmax fabric. I've tried virtually every brand of running sock--including the obscure and the "next big thing" brands--and I always come back to Thorlo. Thorlos are a bit pricey--about $13 a pop--but so worth it and I rarely get blisters. If that's beyond your budget, no worries--there are less expensive brands out there.

3) Have a positive attitude and be patient. Running can be challenging, but as you get in better shape you'll find that it feels more natural and is less and less of a struggle. Start gradually. If running is all new to you, start off with a 5-minute walk, 1-minute run/jog routine and add onto your running time as your conditioning improves. Be systematic about it. Eventually, the goal is to run most of or the whole time! Eventually, you may even venture to the track for some speedwork!

4) Sprinkle in some cross-training. Cycling, swimming and the elliptical are great non-impact cross-training options. When I'm really in a zone and clicking off 100+ miles a week training for a big race, I often forget to cross-train or don't make time for it. Big mistake. Cross-training works different muscles, helps correct imbalances and basically gives your legs a break from the impact. Make time for it.

5) For now, don't try to hammer the hills. Eventually, you'll be running and maybe even crushing it up the hills. More immediately, focus on running the flats and power-walking the hills...unless you really want to run the hills.

6) Try to run on the softest-possible surfaces, which are gentler on your joints. This is especially important for those who are overweight. If you don't have access to dirt trails, run on asphalt if it's safe to do from a traffic standpoint. Or, if you can find a road with a dirt shoulder, go for it.

7) If resources allow, buy some Coolmax clothing. Coolmax is a type of fabric that wicks away moisture and breathes nicely. Cotton doesn't breathe and it doesn't wick, and it causes chafing. Coolmax apparel for running is easy to find and readily available at your specialty running store and even at the big-box stores. Apparel names I like are The North Face, Salomon, Pearl Izumi, Brooks, Adidas, UnderArmour, New Balance, Saucony and Asics. There are some less-expensive brands such as Champion (available at Target) and Starter (available at WalMart) that will probably suffice. A word of advice--I have some Coolmax apparel that I've been wearing for 6+ years. Coolmax is very durable and worth it.

8) Stretch before and after running! Although some discount the importance of stretching, I think it's really important if you're a runner. Tight muscles can place a lot of stress on your ligaments and tendons. The key is to stay limber without over-stretching.

9) Work on your core. For the runner, strong legs are king, but so is a well-developed core that includes the abs, hips, glutes and back. In time, you will also find that arm endurance is important. There are lots of plank exercises that are great for core and overall strengthening.

10) If a marathon is your ultimate goal, set manageable sub-goals that prepare you for 26.2 miles. For now, focus on a strong effort at a local 5K or maybe even 10K. You need to gradually work up to your goal. Rome wasn't built overnight! I highly recommend that you look into local running clubs, where you'll benefit from knowledge, experience and camaraderie. Also consider some excellent training plans from the likes of Hal Higdon, Jeff Galloway and others. I am not a certified coach, and so I don't have the training to provide a detailed plan.

Bonus: If you're on a tight budget, no worries. Let's imagine for a second that I have $150 to spend in getting me suited up for running. Here's how I'd spend it:
  • $90 for shoes at my specialty running store
  • $30 for 3-4 pairs of running socks
  • Remaining funds for Coolmax shorts and a Coolmax shirt at Target, WalMart, Kohl's, etc.
That doesn't leave anything for winter apparel. For now, sweat pants, a sweat shirt, a standard toboggan, mittens, etc. will be OK. Chip away at your running wardrobe and gear with every paycheck you get. Over time you'll be able to build up your arsenal and even get some fancy, useful gadgets like a running watch or GPS. For now, running shoes and running socks are the key. They are always the key!

One final thought: If you're going to be running at dark, please get a headlamp, reflective gear, and ideally a blinking red light. Also carry identification and even a mobile phone (I do not have a PDA because it's too large and bulky for running; instead, I have a small mobile phone that I run with). Consider a RoadID bracelet (available for $20). You can buy the lights and reflective gear at a specialty running or bike store or even the local big-box sports store.

Below is a video that I think is pretty useful. Form is very important. This will be helpful.

Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 Goals / 7 Weight-Loss Tips

Happy new year! It's 2011 and many people (including yours truly) are setting goals for the new year. For me, the big goal for 2011, of course, is to get healthy. I've had a severe bout of plantar fasciitis since July and am only now seeing significant progress in my foot thanks to time off from running, physical therapy, a night splint, and self therapy. An orthotic designed for runners is on the way and I'm feeling optimistic about my foot for the first time in months. If my progress continues and I'm able to be at 100%--or damn close to it--by April, here are some goals for the year:
  • Break 2:55 in the marathon. My current PR is 2:58 and since then I've run two 2:59s. I was planning to go for a sub-2:55 at the 2010 Vegas Marathon, but my foot injury dashed those hopes. A spring 2011 marathon PR effort is an outside possibility, but realistically I think my PR push will have to be in December 2011 at either the Vegas or Sacramento marathons.
  • Top 20 at the Leadville 100. Entering the Mayqueen aid station (mile 86.5) at the 2010 LT100, I was in the top 25, but altitude sickness landed me in a cot at Mayqueen for 40+ minutes as more than 50 runners passed through. I still got the big buckle and a sub-25-hour finish, but I wasn't and am still not satisfied AT ALL with the result. In 2011, my big goal is to finish top 20 at Leadville.
  • Break 4:30 at the Leadville Trail Marathon. This is an ambitious goal as the LT Marathon is one tough race. At the 2010 LT Marathon, I finished with a 4:55, which is a very solid time, but again I wasn't and am still not satisfied with my time. Is a theme emerging?
  • Summit all of the Front Range 14'ers. The Front Range 14'ers are Evans, Bierstadt, Greys, Torreys, Long's and, of course, Pikes Peak, which I've already done twice.
  • Stay healthy for the whole year. In the last three years, I've suffered injuries that really complicated things. In 2008, it was a patella femoral injury during the Mohican 100 (still finished 4th overall) that required PT and basically cost me 5 weeks of quality running (I still managed a 2:59 at the 2008 Columbus Marathon a few months later). In 2009, after a 131-mile effort at the USA 24-Hour National Championship in Cleveland, I suffered inflammation of the bursa sac behind my left Achilles heel, along with a sore arch and knee. It took me a full two months, including PT, to come back from that injury. And of course this year the story has been plantar fasciitis. With some recovery and cross-training built in in 2011, my plan is to stay healthy the whole year!

If your goal in 2011 is to lose weight and get healthy, I'm wishing you success! You can do it! What's stopping you?

I know what it's like to fight with weight and the aches and pains of carrying too many pounds. In 2003, Anne and I made some diet changes in our life together and we've never looked back. We started eating healthier and my weight plummeted. I went from a pudgy 219 pounds to 168 pounds--from a dude many perceived as a "big guy" to a dude many people see as "slim." I went from size 38 pants to size 33, from a size 46 suite to a size 42, from an XL to a large and sometimes medium, from a fat face to a bony face. But best of all, my lower-back pain went away, my confidence improved and success ultimately came my way.

Excess weight is devastating to one's health. Complications and problems from being over-weight or, even worse, obese include back and spine pain, joint problems, diabetes, heart disease, cancer (cancer cells feed off sugar), stroke and low self-esteem (which can contribute to depression). Simply put, the #1 killer in America today isn't heart disease or cancer; it's obesity!

For me, the weight-loss didn't happen overnight. Even when I was over-weight, I was still ripping off runs of 4-5 miles but eating the wrong foods (like KFC, mashed potatoes, too much red meat, cookies, etc.) and smoking a few cigarettes a day. Not until we changed our diet did the weight finally start coming off, allowing me to amp up my running and eventually focus on a dream I had since I was 17 or 18--finishing a marathon. This experience tells me that changing your diet is the single-most important thing you can do to bring weight-loss. Here are seven tips:
  1. Eat whole grains. This includes whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread, brown rice, whole-grain cereals (preferably oat meal, but not the instant kind) and sweet potatoes. The grainy texture of these products may seem strange at first, but give them a shot and stick with it for a while. I'm now a big fan of flour-less bread, such as Ezekiel, that instead has whole grains. Whole-wheat and whole-grain products help prevent your blood sugar from skyrocketing like it would as a result of simple sugars. It takes a lot longer for the sugars in whole-grain products to be broken down, and so the release into the bloodstream is slower. Skyrocketing blood sugar, as is the case with simple sugars such white rice, white potatoes and really bad stuff like pop, is very bad for your weight and health. An added benefit of whole-grain foods is better digestive function. I really like Hodgson Mill whole-grain products and am a huge fan of Safeway's whole-grain organic pasta line. Uncle Ben's makes great brown rice; buy the kind that takes 30 minutes to cook. With oat meal, avoid the instant kind since it's loaded with sugar and instead buy the kind you cook on the stove top. Quaker's 1-minute oats are great!
  2. Consume lean proteins and avoid red meat and pork. Lean proteins include everything from nuts, poultry and fish to skim milk and yogurt.
  3. If possible and if resources allow, consume organic products and avoid meat and poultry from animals that were fed corn products. Cows are not supposed to eat corn, and yet that's a big part of their diet these days since corn-feed is so abundant and cheap. Cows were intended to graze in fields. Avoid red meat from cows that were fed corn (which is 99% of the meat at your local supermarket) as these cows just aren't as healthy, lean and happy as grass-fed cows. The same goes for poultry and, believe it or not, farm-raised fish. I'm a huge fan of free-range chicken, grass-fed beef (in strict moderation, as in once a month), wild-caught fish and cage-free eggs. You will probably need to buy these products at a higher-end grocer like Whole Foods, Fresh Market or, here in Denver, Sprout's (or, better yet, the farmer's market)...but it's worth it. The added cost of meats may ultimately cause you to eat less of them--a good thing--and cook more vegetarian meals (another good thing).
  4. Focus on fruits and veges. I love salads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I pretty much have given up all store-bought salad dressings since they're loaded with garbage. My favorite veges are broccoli, spinach and and red peppers. My favorite fruits would have to be fresh pineapple (wonderful anti-inflammatory qualities), apples, honey dew and bananas. I eat an apple a day.
  5. Drink lots of water and stay hydrated. You can curtail your appetite significantly by just drinking lots of water.
  6. At all costs, avoid refined sugars, fast food, processed "foods" and anything with high-fructose corn syrup. Popular refined sugars include white rice, white pasta, white bread (basically any bread that's not 100% whole wheat or 100% whole grain), white potatoes, soda pop, candy, and desserts. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is, in my opinion, the #1 worst thing you can eat with the possible exception of trans fat-laced foods (which usually also have HFCS). Science is now starting to show the critical danger of HFCS. A chemicalized product that is cheap, HFCS is super-sweet, makes you feel nasty and has secretly replaced good, old-fashioned sugar in literally thousands of products on the grovery store shelf. It makes us fat! HFCS is used in everything from mainstream mayonnaise, sauces, ketchup and dressings to cereals, cookies and pop. You can buy all of those things and more without HFCS--you're just going to have to pay more. If you rid yourself of products with HFCS, you will be amazed how much better you'll feel.
  7. If you do nothing else, never, ever drink calories, especially soda pop which is laced with high-fructose corn syrup. Avoid sugary coffee drinks like mochas and lattes, pops (which are laced with HFCS), "fruit" juices, and sweet tea. If you love sweet tea, use Spenda instead of sugar. Try diet juices and diet pop, although pop in all forms should be avoided. I admit that I am a big fan of Crystal Lite, which contains the ever-controversial phenylalanine. At the end of the day, water reigns supreme.
Click here for more details. Exercise takes it all to the next level. Do it gradually and set realistic goals. Before I ran my first marathon (2004 Columbus, 3:22), I paid my dues, finishing a few 5Ks and a 20K and being an active member of a running club where I learned the ropes.

Then if you become a marathoner, as I did when I hit about 180 pounds in 2004, the weight really comes off. I didn't turn to marathoniong for weight-loss. I love running and it's only by good fortune that my passion is also a great way to get and stay healthy. Since 2004, I've shed about 12 more pounds and am holding steady at 168 pounds (around 165 if I'm really in good shape and primed for a big race).

Here's some off-the-charts motivation for you!

You can do it! Just do it. Now!

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